Amanda & Merrill

My Best Tomato Sandwich

August 10, 2010

Best Tomato Sandwich

- Merrill

The tomato sandwich is, in my opinion, both under and over-appreciated, depending on the camp you fall into. Some just don't appreciate the magic of a perfect tomato sandwich, while others, like me, think about it more often than is technically healthy. (I figure if fantasizing about tomato sandwiches is among the worst of my vices, I’m probably okay.) When tomato season is in full swing, as it is now, I tend to have a tomato sandwich for lunch at least three days a week.

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It’s nothing fancy, but over the years I tweaked until I came up with the tomato sandwich that best suits my taste: two pieces of whole grain toast spread with mayo and stuffed as generously as possible with slices of ripe tomato, plus some salt and coarsely ground black pepper. My recipe -- if you can call it that -- is below, but I’d love to hear yours. Please share details about how you like your tomato sandwiches in the comments section!

My Best Tomato Sandwich

Makes 1 sandwich

  • 2 slices dense wholegrain bread with lots of seeds (my favorite is Eli’s Health Loaf)
  • 1 medium beefsteak tomato (New Jersey or otherwise), perfectly ripe
  • Mayonnaise
  • Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper

Toast the bread to your liking (I like mine nice and crispy, but I know some prefer a lighter toast). Let it cool for a bit while you core and cut the tomato into 1/8-inch slices. Slather one side of each piece of toast with about a teaspoon and a half of mayonnaise (more or less if you like) and layer as many of the tomato slices as you can on top of one one piece of toast. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Top with the other piece of toast, cut in half (vertically or diagonally – the choice is yours, so go wild). Eat immediately, with a side of napkins to catch the tomato/mayo juices that will undoubtedly dribble down your chin.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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  • Lemoni
  • cookease
  • Hold the mayo
    Hold the mayo
  • Msveronica
  • jusi
Food52 (we cook 52 weeks a year, get it?) is a food and home brand, here to help you eat thoughtfully and live joyfully.


Lemoni January 23, 2012
Copious amounts of butter AND mayo on toasted sourdough rye. Sliced tomatoes, and salt and pepper. I'm drooling.

Oh but it is January and I am so far from such a sandwich.
cookease December 27, 2011
Add a few julienned basil leaves....and you have reached nirvana!
Hold T. November 14, 2011
French bread; brush with olive oil: Gril bread, while still hot put layer of fresh goat cheese. Layer tomatos, drizzle with basamic vinegar reduction, salt, pepper, eat your perfect sandwich
Msveronica August 4, 2011
Tomato Mushrooms & pesto drizzled with balsamic on focaccia bread with melted provolone cheese.
jusi August 24, 2010
So many tomato lovers! How loverly! Yes,I grow my own, and yesterday for a mid-afternoon snack, I spread warm Liederkranz cheese on Furanetto's crusty Italian bread, and topped it with thick-cut, just picked, sun-warmed tomato. Ah...
Creative C. August 17, 2010
All this talk of what type of bread, mayo or not, seasonings, etc. Come to Colorado and you will know the only thing I long for is the tomato! Cool nights and less oxygenated atmosphere make the tomatoes of my past in the midwest and south something almost of a fairy tale; little buggars. Everything else is rudimentary!
chardrucks August 16, 2010
According to my dad, James, the best tomato sandwich (i.e. his favorite) comes from another James (Beard) and is actually the "Onion Sandwich" to which dad adds tomatoes. This would be WHITE BREAD (God love it), spring onions, mayo, flat leaf parsley, mayo, salt and pepper + TOMATOES. No, you don't toast the bread. You do remove the crusts. And, you dredge the edges of the halved sandwich in the chopped parsley so you get a green periphery. I have not had said sandwich, but my father has never steered me wrong--at least not when it comes to food.
mklug August 16, 2010
I too am firmly in the Duke's camp. I recently ordered some online and have been having a little every day. But spread over toast and topped with tomato (as soon as they arrive at our pathetic farmer's market)--total heaven! Something I spend long, snowed-in winter months thinking about for hours.
I also once had one where they chopped up fresh tomatoes and mixed them with softened cream cheese on toast, and that was pretty good.
Maybe the best--though not tomato-centric enough for me-was a grilled pimento cheese with fresh tomatoes.
This is making me crazy! Come on, local tomato growers!!
safenervine August 16, 2010
These all sound delicious, but my version is the only thing I learned from a crazy roommate years ago - toasted 12 grain bread, fresh garden tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, cilantro, salt & pepper.
betteirene August 16, 2010

Here's an essay I wrote a couple of years ago for a fundraising cookbook ("How We Eat What We Grow," unfortunately, is out of print) I compiled for our community garden.

Celebrating Summer with a Tomato Sandwich

Though it’s humble, making an excellent tomato sandwich isn’t simple: Perfection is never easy.

The ritual begins with picking the exact right tomato. It must be homegrown, picked warm from the vine. (A store-bought tomato has been chilled, which chokes the essence of summer right out of the fruit, killing its flavor and deadening its fragrance.) Its diameter must be large enough so that one slice (actually a 3/4”-thick slab) practically covers the bread from edge to edge. The tomato must be dead ripe but still firm, juicy without being watery, meaty but not mealy.

Selecting a complementary bread presents another challenge. Whippy white bread, while excellent with a scoop of honey-roasted Skippy, is too soft to support that slab of tomato. Also, its “chew” is too gummy. Whole grain wheat, rye, pumpernickel and sourdough are dense enough for support, but their flavors compete with and do not enhance the taste of the tomato. A couple of thick slices from a sturdy loaf of homemade white bread work well, as does store-bought Italian or French bread, blonde honey-oat deli bread or a fresh Kaiser roll.

My sons, all adults, prefer a film of Miracle Whip on their sandwiches; one of my friends uses ranch dip out of a plastic tub. Heathens, all. I really, really love a nice slathering of real mayonnaise between the tomato and the bread. Besides bringing the sandwich right up to the line between lush and decadent, the mayonnaise prevents the bread from absorbing the tomato’s juice and turning it into a red, soggy mess.

A gentle sprinkling of Kosher salt is the only other enhancement needed.

A tall glass of iced sweet tea should be served alongside.

There are only two places to eat this simple masterpiece: Over the kitchen sink, elbows splayed in a feeble attempt to keep the tomato's juice from running down your forearms; or under a blazing sun, sitting on the steps of the back porch, elbows on your spread-out knees while you hunker down with the sandwich and allow the juice to drip on the step below you. If you need to use three paper towels during your meal, your sandwich has been made correctly.

Food-G August 15, 2010
Oh Merrill, this is one of the best things about August, and you nailed it, right down to the chewy whole grain bread. Here's my 2 cents: Use grey salt if you have it. Don't be shy with the mayo. Slice the tomato at least half an inch thick. Use a sprouted grain bread like Ezekiel, and here's the clutch: brush or spray two slices with a very light coat of olive oil, and put em right in the toaster. The subtle olive oil aroma adds so much to the juicy sweet tomatoes, nutty crisped bread, rich mayonnaise, and little kicks of sea salt crystals.
NJCMH August 15, 2010
Guess you could call this a sandwich. When we have corn on the cob, we put a big chunk of cold butter on a piece of good white bread and butter our corn by sliding it back and forth over the butter. When your done with all the corn you want, now is when the tomato takes its turn with the butter soaked bread. Mop up any juices on the plate then wrap it around the tomato slices, If there's not enough salt and pepper left from the corn, add some more. No mayo needed at all!
hedgman August 15, 2010
While Amazon normally carries Dukes they are out at the moment and you have to buy multiple quantities. For a single jar or more, try or do a search.
blenny August 15, 2010
I know I'm in the minority, but a huge fan of Miracle Whip, can't stand Hellman's. Fresh, soft, potato bread, Miracle Whip, tomatoes and plenty of salt, ummmmmmmm!
margbee August 15, 2010
I prefer white bread, not toasted. Sunbeam works perfectly if you can find it, maybe because of childhood memories. Mayo on both pieces of bread, tomatoes thickly-sliced - fresh from the garden or farm stand, salt and pepper. For a twist, spread pimento cheese on the bread and top with tomato. But that's no longer a tomato sandwich...
Gale August 15, 2010
Has this won the number of comments award yet? Amazing how something so simple is soooo good (and hard to find those people who don't like it). By the way for those interested not in their sales area - one can buy Duke's directly from them - shipping included so it's reasonable and well worth it.
nykavi August 15, 2010
I make my sandwich with white bread, usually Pepperidge Farm .Put on a generous layer of baba ghanoush. then a thickly sliced beefsteak tomato and liberal sprinkling of coarsely ground pepper in that order. You could top this with another slice of baba ghanoush buttered bread ...or eat it open face. Both ways it is just delicious...
nratt August 15, 2010
Oops. I missed Gale's earlier post. She's got it right!
nratt August 15, 2010
The Southern Way: Good quality white sandwich bread, untoasted, smeared with Duke's mayo, slabs of Beefsteak tomato from the garden. That's it. That IS a tomato sandwich. Also, a great foundation to build all manner of other great sandwiches upon. But get 'em while they're fresh. Winter's coming, ya know.
Victoria C. August 15, 2010
Yes. Dukes's IS the best. I think it's the only store-bought mayo available that doesn't have sugar in it. I have never seen it in the grocery stores in NYC. But now that you have reminded me about it, I think I'll order some from the IT.
drbabs August 15, 2010
I've never had Duke's, but Trader Joe's organic mayo also does not have sugar or any sweeteners in it
Victoria C. August 15, 2010
I got an email with this post, put whole wheat bread in the toaster and ran out to the garden to snag some totally ripe tomatoes, washed them, sliced them, slathered the toast with mayo, added the tomatoes, crushed some Maldon salt and coarsely ground some black pepper over the top.

Then I sat down and ate.

Heaven! THANK YOU.